We all know the cliché routine: take your kid to an empty car park or a quiet street and practice accelerating, braking, using turn signals, checking blind spots and parking. That’s great for the first day, but move it along quickly. Get out there in traffic and let the young driver experience what it’s like alongside unpredictable drivers. Teach them how to drive a manual. You never know what situation may arise in your child’s future, so get them prepared.
I can’t count the number of people I’ve encountered who don’t know how to check their oil. I hate to admit that it’s mostly women, but there are still a lot of full grown men who can’t do this for themselves. At a minimum, your child should be able to check their fluids and tyre pressure, read their gauges and top off other fluids before you ever hand over your keys. If your little driver shows an interest in how things work, start them off with small jobs like changing the oil, replacing bulbs and replacing filters before cracking open the motor.
Keeping your eyes on the road is crucial, but so is keeping your ears alert. Teach your kid to not only listen to outside noises like other motorists and emergency vehicle sirens, but also to listen to the sound of their own car. Being able to identify a new or unusual noise may save them from letting a problem go unnoticed. Make sure your child is familiar with the sound of the engine idling without problems, and explain the different sounds that come from worn brake pads, broken CV axles, a dead battery versus a bad starter, etc.
Nobody starts off driving with full knowledge of their local and national laws. Sometimes there are odd laws that make no sense to us, but we must obey them anyway. Be sure your kid knows which actions could earn them a citation or worse. Making sure your child can handle a conversation with a police officer is equally important. Explain the safe way to pull over, what rights the driver has, and how to answer an officer with respect.
Here’s a situation that makes me cringe: I’m driving down the highway, and I pass what looks like a teenager standing next to his car. He has a flat tyre, and he’s desperately trying to hear someone on his mobile phone while cars fly past him. Why doesn’t he just change the tyre? Does he not know how, or does he not have a spare tyre? Does he really need assistance for this? I know I shouldn’t assume anything, but I see this same scenario quite often. Therefore, I urge you to teach your children how to pull off the road safely using their hazard lights, and how to change a tyre. Prepare them with a roadside emergency kit, so they can let other drivers know their presence. Teach them how to actually read a map in case their navigation fails them and how to contact their local highway patrol.
Nothing comes free. The cost of the car, the insurance required to drive it, taxes, fuel and maintenance all add up quick. Explain the impact of getting a ticket, insurance hikes, fees and court costs. You need to make it clear and actually show your child the costs you (or they) incur as a result of driving, even without any tickets or accidents. This lesson will come easily for teens who have a job, but you’ll have to work hard to convince one that is accustomed to receiving handouts.
Lastly, make sure your kid appreciates the value of having their own transportation. Too many people take this for granted. If you’re in an area with public transportation, make it a point to have your child ride a bus, pay for a cab, walk, bike or whatever it takes to get from point A to point B without your help. Even if only for a few days, this is something everyone should experience before owning their first car. Being in complete control over where you go and what time you go there is an amazing feeling, but don’t let it be overshadowed by a sense of self entitlement.